Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1)
THINGS didn’t go to plan at Cheltenham but Mighty Potter set the record straight in some style in one of the week’s major upsets as Gordon Elliott’s charge sprang a 20/1 surprise in the Bective Stud Novice Hurdle with the odds-on Sir Gerhard only third.
Mighty Potter went to Cheltenham as a lively contender for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle but a bad mistake at the fifth cost him any chance he had and he was quickly pulled up. That adject display coupled with Sir Gerhard’s brilliant effort at Prestbury Park the following day meant that these two were poles apart in the betting.
However, Mighty Potter turned up in all his glory this time to confirm the immense promise that he showed during the winter. In a race that made for intriguing viewing, Dysart Dynamo cut out the running from the Caldwell Construction-owned winner and there was a fascinating moment towards the end of the back straight where Jack Kennedy elected to keep Sir Gerhard in on the rail rather than afford him the opportunity to move out to challenge.
At the third last the complexion of the race changed markedly as Dysart Dynamo weakened rapidly and Mighty Potter strode to the head of the field. The leader produced a much better jump two out than the chasing Sir Gerhard and rounding the last bend it was clear the favourite was in trouble. Indeed it was left to the 100/1 chance Gatsby Grey to lead the chase in the closing stages but despite a clumsy error at the last Mighty Potter was not for catching and he went on to score by four lengths.
“He did the splits when he made that mistake at Cheltenham and he was lame for a few days but it was nothing serious,” stated Elliott, who was winning this race for the first time. “He came back very light from Cheltenham too but we gave him time and freshened him up and he was very good today. I was actually in two minds whether to run him but after walking the track and watching the first we decided to let him take his chance and he’s produced a very nice performance and got a beautiful ride from Jack.
“I’ve always thought a lot of the horse and it’s great he’s shown that there and it’s great for Andrew and Gemma Brown (Caldwell Construction) too as they have a lovely team of young horses with us. I think with another summer behind him he will be a lovely horse next season when he will be going chasing.”
Afterwards, Willie Mullins reported that Dysart Dynamo was suffering from a heart fibrillation, while he reflected on Sir Gerhard: “He was a little disappointing and he was beaten here last year too. Maybe he doesn’t like Punchestown or maybe he just doesn’t like going right handed and possibly we will have to keep him going left-handed but we’ll look at everything when we get home.”
Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase (Grade 1)
HE may have met with a surprise defeat in the first of the day’s top-level events but Willie Mullins was still able to make it a Grade 1 double on the opening evening of the Festival as Capodanno bagged the good prize that has looked set to come his way for some time.
After his honourable fourth to L’Homme Presse at Cheltenham, the J.P. McManus-owned six-year-old produced his most complete performance to date in a race where very few of the runners ever managed to and a blow. One of those was the 6/5 favourite Bob Olinger who was labouring from some way out and pulled up before the third last when tailed off.
By contrast Capodanno (11/4) and Lifetime Ambition bossed this race up front but from around the fifth last there was an inevitable air concerning the result as the Mark Walsh-ridden winner was in control at the head of the field.
To his credit Lifetime Ambition remained in contention but he couldn’t ever get back on terms with the winner who maintained an unfaltering gallop to finish six and a half lengths clear. Fury Road plugged on for third with Ballyshannon Rose taking fourth. This was a second consecutive Punchestown Festival triumph for the winner who annihilated a decent field in a handicap hurdle over this trip in 2021.
“Walking out of Cheltenham I thought we didn’t do things right and speaking to Mark before the race he was of a similar mind,” commented Mullins. “We changed tactics with the horse today and it worked and I think he’s a horse who is going to keep improving and progressing. He’s a good horse and I think he can progress and maybe he could be a Gold Cup horse.”